LONDON — Boris Johnson set out his offer to the country with a new legislative program aimed at “leveling up” opportunities across the U.K. and assuaging people’s fears on the cost of living — while remaining short on detail.
Prince Charles delivered the speech, which formally opens the new session of parliament for the first time, after the queen pulled out of the event with mobility issues.
A debate follows on the 38 bills presented in a day of elaborate pageantry in Westminster, which is used to detail all the legislation the government wants to enact in the coming year.
However, Johnson’s administration is facing a big backlog of existing promises, carrying over a number of bills it was unable to fit into the last session of parliament. With the next general election due by January 2025, the government is running out of time before it will face voters again.
Johnson is attempting to woo Conservative voters with a Brexit Freedoms Bill, intended to make it easier to remove or amend European Union regulations that were copied into U.K. law, and a Public Order Bill, seeking to stop disruptive protests with harsher jail sentences.
A Leveling Up Bill will force landlords in England to let shops left empty for a year and allow councils to take control of derelict buildings in a bid to rejuvenate high streets.
Johnson signaled his concern about pressures faced by households as a result of soaring bills and inflation, stressing in the speech “it is right that we continue doing whatever we can to ease the burdens people are grappling with now.”
But he had a word of warning for those who want to see fresh measures announced: “We must also remember that for every pound of taxpayer’s money we spend on reducing bills now, it is a pound we are not investing in bringing down bills and prices over the longer term.”
Speaking earlier, Home Office Minister Kit Malthouse did not rule out an emergency budget to be brought forward before the fall.
The legislative program also included bills designed to more tightly regulate large tech platforms, retain the current cap on energy prices and bring down the cost of heat pumps, ban conversion therapy designed to change people’s sexual orientation, establish an independent commission to investigate deaths during 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland, and tighten regulation on landlords. Full details here.